Indian laborers get free medical attention at a street clinic run by a local NGO Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

How Corruption Impedes Universal Health Coverage

There is growing consensus that affordable, quality health care is a basic human right, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include universal coverage as a target. But until an old foe – corruption and fraud – is defeated, the goal of health care for all will remain aspirational.

ISLAMABAD – Half of the planet cannot access essential health services. For many people, paying to see a doctor, obtaining medications, seeking family-planning advice, or even getting immunized against common illnesses is a choice between staying healthy and slipping into poverty. And, more than ever, the health-care options that poor people do have are being degraded by a familiar foe.

In many low- and middle-income countries, corruption, inadequate spending, and wasted resources pose enduring challenges for health-care systems. Growing up in Pakistan, I saw people forced to go to extremes to secure health care. For example, families might be forced to sell off cattle and other valuables to pay exorbitant medical bills.

What is shocking is that the scourge of health-related poverty continues to claim victims today. Indeed, in some countries, people falling into poverty due to the high cost of health care is an everyday reality.